Info on LaRouche

Terry Tapp maywildcat at
Mon May 28 09:35:28 PDT 2001

Thanks to the folks who sent me URLs with info on LaRouche. I guess I didn't find him too shocking--all politicians look alike to me. I do my best to avoid them and their plans for my world.

Anyway, I was just curious about some of what was being said at the conference and it seems I've stirred up a lot of paranoia. So, to answer it: No, I'm not part of a LaRouche cult. I work at a shipyard, read alot, consider myself an anarchist. Hopefully to nix the spook vibes, here's an article with me in it that's coming out "Labor Notes" this month. For what it's worth, I was teh first person to refuse to work, to stand on the line that hadn't formed yet.

by Joshua Freeze and Tim Russ

A weeklong wildcat strike at the largest inland shipyard in the world ended May 7th. Workers at Jeffboat in Jeffersonville, Indiana build and repair huge river barges. This massive facility is situated right across the river from downtown Louisville, Kentucky. The wildcat ended and the strikers returned to work with a guarantee of no recriminations. This brave action, rare in an era of worker apathy, was the result of unsafe and intolerable working conditions reaching the boiling point. Rank and file workers had organized for months to demand a better contract, with major wage increases. The workers are demanding $5 over three years. They are aiming high, and willing to back up their demands with action.

Teamsters Local 89, Kentucky's largest labor organization, left the workers with little choice but to wildcat when the local failed to properly administer their contract. A "clerical error" blamed on an office staff member resulted in the automatic extension of their contract for one year. The duration clause required that the union or the employer notify the other party if it was their desire for the contract to expire. The union claimed that they had done so on the 59th day and the employer had refused to allow the contract to expire. Over 500 members packed their union hall to hear embattled Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman recommend the employer's substandard last and final offer. The contract was rejected 4 to 1. A strike is automatically authorized when a final offer is rejected under Teamster rules. That is when Zuckerman told the workers the union could not call a strike because of the "clerical error" he made two months earlier. For two months the union had bargained knowing they had no credible strike threat but the rank and file had been kept in the dark. They were prepared to strike and they did.

It was very successful, especially for a wildcat. An impressive 99% of the 800 workers honored the picket line that militant Jeffboat employees who were also members of the Industrial Workers of the World set up. Picket signs read "Don't Drink Milk!" avoiding any ambiguity as to whether the strike was "official" or not. This wildcat was hundreds of workers, choosing not to report to work when they found their coworkers hadn't crossed the makeshift picket line. The leaders of this strike had been organizing workers to build a real union in the workplace. It was done under the tenets of solidarity and the slogan of "An Injury to One Is an Injury to All!" made famous by the IWW. For a week this militant group of workers stood the line, and gained respect. Despite the efforts of Teamsters officials and Jeffboat management, they were unable to force the workers to accept the final offer and return to work.

Demands are twofold; those directed at the union, and those at the company.

To the union, the primary demands center around democracy. They want to elect their business agent. They want the negotiating committee to be elected by areas in the yard. They want to democratically decide on demands before negotiations begin and get regular reports from the committee. They also want strike pay for the week they were out.

It is unlikely that the union will provide any strike pay, because they cannot legally sanction the strike. The other issues may be difficult to resolve in the short term, since the local covers a large geographic area and contains roughly 18,000 members.

To the company the workers demand that negotiations be reopened. They want full coverage of health care premiums, an end to arbitrary discipline and a decent raise. They also want a worker-controlled health and safety committee that can shut down unsafe work. In the last year, there have been areas shut down by workers refusing to do dangerous work and they want this addressed formally

At a morning meeting on May 7, the IBT leadership put the same proposal that had been voted down to the membership again. This time it was voted down by an 16-to-1 margin. It didn't look as though a continued strike could make gains at that point, so the workers ended it, but with a commitment to carry the struggle into the shop. They will continue to work under the one-year extension of the old contract, a partial workers' victory given the company's desire to have a stable workforce for the increased output needed over the next several years.

At a meeting called by IWW Jeffboat workers on the afternoon of May 7, a committee was established to build a movement inside. They discussed a variety of workplace actions, made a commitment made to expand the committee and set another meeting two weeks later. The IWW General Defense Committee informed the committee that a fund had been established to assist them in emergencies.

Relationships with the union have been put to the test by the complete opposition from the official leadership. Workers are calling for decertification and want out of the AFL-CIO. Because of the contract extension, they do not have that option at this time due to National Labor Relations Board rules governing the process. Zuckerman won the last election by presenting himself as a reform candidate. It is apparent now he is no different than the previous administration.

As for gaining control of their current local, that is a tougher rode ahead. There is little or no TDU presence at Jeff Boat. Zuckerman's calling himself a "reformer" may make it more difficult for TDU. Confronted with the discontent of members at Jeffboat, Teamster VP and Hoffa ally Walt Lytle has proposed transferring the workers into Local 783. Local 783 would be eager to gain the dues income but unlikely to represent the members better. They could throw their whole force their support behind The United Rank and File caucus, a TDU backed reform group in Local 89 that came 117 votes from winning the last union officers election in 1999. TDU has a long history of activity and strength especially among UPS workers who make up the largest chunk of the local, some 7,000 workers

There is now nine months until the window for decertification reopens in which the workers can plan their strategy. According to Terry Tapp, an IWW member in the shop, right now the workers simply want out of the Teamsters and out of the AFL-CIO. Because of AFL-CIO raiding rules, if they left the Teamsters, they would not be permitted to join another union in the Federation for a year. They could create an independent union or join an existing union outside of the AFL-CIO.

However, in decertification elections, the workers often end up with no union it all, which is generally even worse than the union they are leaving. It is too early to say what their strategy will be during the next year, but they have a hard road ahead fighting both company and union. They do have one strong card, which is clearly demonstrated unanimity in favor of democracy. The complete success of the strike in shutting down the yard can only give a strong sense of power. This coupled with the strength of organization begun at the meeting where the committee was formed suggests they have taken the task seriously and gives one hope.

_________________________________________________________________ Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list